Briefly explain what happened during the Tang & Song dynasties when the practice of herbal medicine was folded into the theory of the medicine of systematic correspondence and then tell me if you think that this had a positive or negative outcome for the practice of herbal medicine. Why?
Up until the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD) herbalism was preserved and practiced by Buddhists and Taoists. It was during this period of annotating and completing famous medical texts that Confucians in political power decided it would be most appropriate to classify all of the herbs utilized up to this point into the systematic correspondences model. The practice of organizing herbs by flavors, thermal properties and channels entered became exceptionally popular during the Sung Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD). This allowed for great advances in medicine because philosophy for treatment strategy solidified and texts became more comprehensive. The ‘ordered’ version of the Shang Han Lun from this period is what influenced most physicians in centuries to come.
Functions for points and herbs are also developed during this period (ex. Resolve exterior rather than tx headache). This helped physicians get to ROOT of problem rather than treating branches.
This desire to categorize, interrogate, and dissect does not seem to be isolated to the Chinese culture. All throughout human history it seems as though most topics of inquiry that are worth the time, have been scrutinized and continuously re-evaluated. Personally, I appreciate the categorizations of herbs into systematic correspondences. I feel as though the current American health care climate is primed and almost (maybe?) ready to start thinking about accepting internal (herbal) Chinese medicine into it’s standard of care. If the Confucians of the Song Dynasty hadn’t taken the time to do this, we (Europeans/Americans) would be 100 steps away from implementing this as a standard of care rather than the 95 steps away that we currently are.
It would seem as though ancient Taoists were early biologists and because of this I feel as though they might challenge the idea of “positive or negative” outcomes. Biology (and maybe Taoist) has a strange way removing the ‘shoulds’ while observing truth. Obviously it’s beneficial for most of us that they spent the time organizing herbs into systematic correspondences so that knowledge passed through generations would be preserved because of the comprehensive nature of the medicine. However, who’s to say that it wouldn’t have been superior to keep the knowledge/practice of herbal medicine in the hands of Taoists and Buddhists?